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Poll: GOP would bear the brunt of shutdown blame

budget cuts

WASHINGTON (CNN) – If the federal government shuts down starting Tuesday because of a bitter partisan battle over the new health care law, more people say congressional Republicans rather than President Barack Obama would be responsible, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday morning, hours before funding for the government is scheduled to run out, also indicates that most Americans think Republicans in Congress are acting like spoiled children in this fiscal fight, with the public divided on whether the president is acting like a spoiled child or a responsible adult.

And six in 10 questioned in the survey say they want Congress to approve a budget agreement to avoid a government shutdown, and if it happens, most people say a shutdown would be a bad thing for the country.

The poll’s release comes one day after the GOP-dominated House of Representatives approved a spending plan to fund the government that would delay the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, for a year, and repeal its tax on medical devices.

That measure now heads back to Senate later Monday, where the Democratic majority has said any changes to the health care law would be a deal-killer. If no deal is reached on a temporary funding measure, a government shutdown would kick in at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday.

According to the poll, which was conducted Friday through Sunday, 46% say they would blame congressional Republicans for a government shutdown, with 36% saying the president would be more responsible and 13% pointing fingers at both the GOP in Congress and Obama.

“The number who would hold congressional Republicans responsible has gone down by 5 points since early September, and the number who would blame Obama is up 3 points in that same time,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Those changes came among most demographic groups.”

The CNN poll is similar to a CBS News/New York Times survey released late last week that indicated 44% blaming congressional Republicans and 35% pointing fingers at the president. Two other polls conducted in the past week and a half, from Pew Research Center and United Technologies/National Journal, showed a much closer margin but their questions mentioned Republicans in general rather than the GOP in Congress.

While most Democrats questioned in the CNN poll would predictably blame congressional Republicans and most Republicans questioned would point fingers at the president, independents were divided on which side they would blame.

In a separate question, 49% of all people in the poll say that Obama is acting like a responsible adult in this budget battle, with 47% describing him as a spoiled child. While that’s nothing to brag about, it’s better than Congress.

According to the poll, 58% say congressional Democrats are acting like spoiled children, with that number rising to 69% for the GOP in Congress. Only one in four say congressional Republicans are acting like responsible adults.

Some 68% say a shutdown for a few days would be a bad thing for the country, with that number rising to nearly eight in 10 for a shutdown lasting a few weeks.

Six in 10 questioned in the CNN survey say that it is more important for Congress to avoid a shutdown than to make major changes to the new health care law, with only a third saying it is more important for lawmakers to prevent major provisions in the new health care law from taking effect by cutting the funds needed to implement them.

(Note: When CNN began interviews for this poll on Friday evening, the Senate had just stripped out of its bill the House Republican measure to defund the health care law. What the House passed this weekend doesn’t specifically call for a defunding of Obamacare — instead it delays its implementation for a year — but the repeal on medical devices would cut key funding for the law.)

The drive to overthrow the health care law, which was passed in 2010 when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, is being fueled by GOP lawmakers voted into office the past two elections with the strong support of tea party activists and other grassroots conservatives.

“A majority of Republicans think that blocking Obamacare is more important than approving a budget agreement,” said Holland. “So do tea party supporters, regardless of their partisan affiliation.”

The poll indicates that Obamacare is not popular, with 57% saying they oppose the law, up 3 points from May, and 38% saying they support the measure, down five points from May.

But only about four in 10 oppose it because it is too liberal, with about one in 10 saying they don’t like the law because it is not liberal enough.

If you add the 38% who favor the law to the 11% to oppose the law because it’s not liberal enough, you get 49%, compared with the 39% who say they oppose the law because it’s too liberal.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International September 27-29, with 803 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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